Hyderabad, Jul 24: In a major effort to compete with private seed companies, three prestigious agriculture institutes across the country have developed 'Bikaneri narma', a new biotech cotton variety which is not only pest-resistant, but also cheaper than the other varieties available in the market.
The New Delhi-based Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur and University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) in Dharwad have jointly developed the cotton variety.
The National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology (NRCPB) at IARI had worked for over 10 years towards the development of the biotech gene on the popular Bikaneri variety cotton, used by farmers across the country, and transferred it to the CICR and UAS for field trials.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had cleared the 'Bikanari narma' a few weeks back and it would be made available to the farmers through the National Seed Corporation and other public sector seed companies in the current season, Professor KC Bansal of NRCPB told the media.
The new Bt cotton variety was pest-resistant and about 20 to 25 per cent cheaper, but provided yield equivalent to the Bt cotton varieties being sold by the private companies, he added.
The new variety was also suitable for different soil conditions.
Over the next two to three years, CICR and other institutions in the national agriculture research system would be releasing four to five new seed varieties.
At the NRCPB centre, efforts were underway to develop biotech Brinjal, Okra (ladies finger) and transgenic mustard, besides drought-tolerant rice, wheat and tomato. These varieties, including the golden rice, were tested in the 'Green house' at the centre and was likely to be released to farmers over the next four or five years after field trials.